Sarah Cummings posted a contribution on the Access to Seeds Index in a discussion on ‘Private sector in agricultural innovation and development’:
Published in June 2019, the 2019 Access to Seeds Index presents four rankings and in-depth studies that evaluate the performance of global seed companies as well as the regional industry in South and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The synethesis report is available here.
The index presents scorecards for 62 companies that highlight a company’s strengths and weaknesses, presence and portfolio, leading practices and notable findings. The country profiles provide an overview of the presence and activities of all 62 index companies in each of the 65 countries in scope of the Access to Seeds Index. The index seeks primarily to identify leadership and good practices, providing an evidence base for the discussion on where and how the seed industry can step up its efforts. Two indexes have been published so far, in 2016 and 2019, with high and increasing participation by companies in data collection, significant media attention globally and a growing stakeholder group.
The 2019 Index particularly highlights the importance of local and regional companies in providing access to seeds for smallholder farmers. Although most attention goes to globally active seed companies, which dominate many seed markets with advanced breeding programs, the industry is highly diverse and locally driven. Small and medium national and regional companies outperform their global peers in multiple areas relevant for reaching smallholders, but they also provide linkages between farmers and global players through research and distribution partnerships.
Challenges differ in each of the three main regions covered by the Index. In South and Southeast Asia, the index identified a highly competitive and research-driven industry. However, leading seed companies reach less than a quarter of the smallholders active in this region. In Eastern and Southern Africa, the main challenge is diversification of breeding activities that currently focus mainly on maize. In Western and Central Africa, practically all countries are covered through a combination of homegrown seed companies, seed-producing cooperatives and companies from outside the region. However, only 11 companies actually breed in and for the region.
Although a lack of access to quality seeds in many emerging economies persists, with companies still only reaching 10% of the world’s smallholder farmers, the overall improvement in performance between 2016 and 2019 indicates the industry’s growing recognition of and more responsive approach toward this significant client group. Coupled with the rising number of homegrown and global seed companies in all regions, the industry has the potential to change this in the coming decade, with possible substantial impacts on food and nutrition security in the countries that need it most.